My friend and I went on a trip to Austria. And we went on a trip in Austria. Confused? Keep reading.
Tom and I spent the day wandering around old churches. There is something about the architecture, the reverence, the style of them that we like. And, well, we like the ritual.
We’d already been to three churches that day before we found one that was celebrating Mass. But this wasn’t any ordinary Mass. It looked like something special was going on because a guy with a crozier was there. We guessed he was a bishop.
Sadly we hadn’t learned any words to understand what was going on. Our phrase books didn’t venture into religion. We could order our food and get directions, but we couldn’t follow along with the service.
Well, we could, sort of. We both had been to a lot of Catholic services, and they are all pretty much the same. Catholic means “universal”, after all. And it isn’t like we were going to be asked to speak. Church isn’t exactly equal in terms of the speaking parts. If the congregation gets to speak, it is given lines to say from a book.
Usually a guy dressed up like this and with this kind of accessory is a bishop. They only show up for special occasions, like a baptism, confirmation, or ordination. The average, everyday stuff they leave to the priests.
We watched what was going on, but we didn’t see anything special. It looked like a regular service. Tom and I stared at each other, shrugging a little. Who knows? Surely something different will happen.
And it did, but not what either of us could have ever expected.
The Bishop was celebrating Communion, as is normal if the Bishop is there. He outranks everybody except the Pope, so he gets to do this part of the service if he wants to.
We were pretty far away, but it seemed like something different happened when he picked up the chalice to bless the wine. It kind of looked like a snake rose from it. And then it kind of looked like he smiled.
We went up to take Communion and as usual, the Bishop administered the wafer. The priest of that church came by with the chalice.
Everything was normal when I took the wafer, but I felt a little weird when I sipped the wine. I felt a little dizzy, so I grabbed the altar rail to steady myself. I looked at Tom and he was doing the same thing.
Then we looked and saw the craziest thing. The Bishop was being chased by a skeleton!
It made no sense. I mean, this is an old church and all, and there are people buried in niches in the walls, but they are dead, definitely dead. This skeleton-guy wasn’t an accident. He wasn’t somebody who got interred recently and by mistake. I could see through him, for goodness sakes.
The bishop ran screaming down the aisle out of the church’s front door, all the while being chased by this skeleton.
We thought this would cause a panic, but nobody else seemed to notice anything. Now, sure, there are people who don’t move when a fire alarm goes off. They need to actually see a reason to run, like seeing actual fire, before they will take the alarm seriously.
But a skeleton. Chasing a guy. Who ran out.
Surely that is enough to rally the whole room.
Nope. It seemed like just Tom and I noticed all of this. We stuck close together after that, constantly looking at each other to check if the other one saw the same thing.
We walked around the church after that and came across this stained glass window.
Mary and Jesus were all sharp, and everything else looked like it was warping in time and space. None of the other stained glass windows had done that, but they didn’t have Mary and Jesus. Perhaps that was the difference.
Perhaps there was something that warped time and space when Mary had God contained within her. It is pretty trippy, if you think about it. We date time from when Jesus was born, after all. Things changed, so yeah, I can understand the fabric of reality warping around them. I just didn’t expect to see it.
We stumbled out of the church. The parishioners looked at us like we were drunk. Hopefully they just thought we were ignorant tourists and wouldn’t call the police. A night in a foreign jail wasn’t tops on my list. Actually, a night in any jail wasn’t even on the list.
We wandered around, getting further and further away from the church. Our hope was that if they did call the police, we’d be long gone.
Everything looked fine until the parade came around the corner. We saw a woman being led by these strange men. She was dressed like a queen, and it looked like she was wringing her hands. She looked so sad.
Were the men holding her up in her grief, or were they dragging her along to her demise? There was no way of knowing. Once again our tourist phrase book was failing us.
Then the heavens opened up and we saw an angel.
By this point we had given up trying to make sense of any of it.
(Notes. This is what happens when I have a lot of stamps. These are all Austrian stamps and they are all odd. They looked like they told a story that hadn’t been written, so I wrote it. I like the idea that stamps illustrate the story – in fact, the stamps are the reason for the story.)